Conor O’Brien was absolutely fabulous on Saturday night, October 3rd, at the charming Swedish American Hall in San Francisco, where he and his Village People wooed attentive listeners.
A seasoned master of ceremonies, O’Brien began the night playing the show tune “My Funny Valentine” solo with a flare that could rival Sinatra. He was then joined by bandmates Mali Llywelyn on keys and Gwion Llewelyn on drums and flugelhorn and Villagers played “Set The Tigers Free” and “Dawning On Me”.
The songs, the banter, the mood, the environment – everything was perfect throughout the evening including a moment when O’Brien broke down into a mild fit of giggles due to the rhythmic clapping along with “27 Strangers” that erupted when they started playing it. O’Brien made a joke about the clapping and asked that everyone stop while he regained composure and played the beautiful new arrangement of “27 Strangers.”
We were wowed, we were wooed, we shared in the experience and power of the songs and didn’t want it to end, ever! After a heartfelt thank you, a salute and a bow, O’Brien bid everyone goodnight as the room stood in a standing ovation.
“There are just no words to describe it,” was the most poignant comment heard after the show as many people were at a loss to describe the experience, but the buzz in the room was palpable.
“I shed six big tears,” shared one guest while standing in line to buy Darling Arithmetic and speak with O’Brien.
O’Brien hung out after the show selling and signing copies of his beautiful third album, Darling Arithmetic, which he wrote and recorded entirely on his own.
Short two members, their instruments, base, keyboard and the harp Mali plays when they’re touring Europe, the threesome create an environment of sound, a tapestry of story and harmony; grief and growth bigger than what would seem possible from three people and paired down set. This surreal swell of sound was accomplished in part by the amazing feats of Gwion Llewelyn. On “Courage” and others, Gwion played a complex drum combination while simultaneously playing the flugelhorn that harmonizes eerily with O’Brien’s vocals.
When asked to close their eyes and meditate together for “So Naive”, most everyone in the audience obliged and many shed tears.
Sadly, there are no more headlining shows scheduled for Villagers in the U.S.; but Villagers has a few more American dates opening for Paul Weller, which this listener highly recommends you attend. For those who make it out early for Villagers and are able to listen, there is a shift. This is music.